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Old 08-08-2011, 12:46 PM   #1
fortyfour
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Default 44 Bikes Frame Shop

A little about myself: I'm an industrial Designer by trade. In a previous life I was a goldsmith and silversmith. My mothers father was a Union Welder and apparently his specialty was Tig Welding. Although I did not know him very well (he passed away when I was pretty young), somehow his skills and attention to detail were passed along through the wind. My interest in metals must have been fused in my brain sometime when I was young poking around his shop and admiring his well used tools.

I own a small design studio specializing in Product Design, Graphic Design and all things in between. I've always had a true passion for bicycles. Especially mountain bikes or anything two wheeled that touches dirt and the rider is the power source. My life long goal has always been to start a small custom frame shop. As luck would have it, when my wife and I moved from Providence, RI to New Hampshire, I had an opportunity to apprentice under a long time frame builder (Ted Wojcik) and hone my skills once a week in exchange for graphic design and redesigning his brand identity. I came to the bench already possessing many practical skills and knowledge but Ted was kind enough to help hone those skills even further but pass on some much coveted "trade secrets" and those little tips that make all the difference. Much respect and gratitude goes out to anyone willing to pass along their skills and knowledge. I hope to one day do the same.

Let me just say this too: pretty much everything I do I do it on my own terms. I'm very DIY almost to a fault. So when tackling this project, I want everything on my own terms. I even started my design business to help fund this project. When it's done, I want that satisfaction of knowing I did it myself, I did it to the best of my ability and the result will be a product that's made here in the USA by hand one at a time and a business built on honesty, hard work and expertise. I figure if I can pull that off, I can finally go to sleep at night knowing I'm doing my part to help build back what's been torn down. Even if it's only one bicycle frame at a time.

So naturally, the other life long goal of always building something from scratch is to have that place to create. A place to envision that "big idea" or where those mistakes turn into something unexpected. One factor when we moved to New Hampshire was to have a nice piece of land, not too much mind you - just enough to feel like we weren't elbow to elbow and to have a place for a shop. Mission accomplished: Our property has a 22 x 30 horse barn about 150' from our house. Naturally the apprenticeship came to a close about a year and a half ago and I made the decision to stop lolly-gagging around and bring production home as it were. I always have wanted a shop/studio of my own, now seemed like the right time to do it. My focus now turned to going after building out the shop:


Shop Report: 4.9.2011 by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

From the front (it overlooks one of our large vegetable gardens across the way):


Shop - Front by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

From the back side:


Shop - Rear by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

The previous owners had let too many of the trees grow too big too close to the shop - I traded a friend a custom frame in exchange for cutting down 4 trees. (Bartering is alive and well in the Granite State)

The first thing to do was to remove the horse stalls and get things ready for the build out. So weekends here and there along with the occasional day off coupled with running your own business and all that goes along with just plain living equates to things moving slower than you'd like. Here's a shot from inside the space showing what it looked like at the time. Just a lot of work ahead of me.


Some Perspective by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Removing 6" of heavy packed clay by pick, shovel and wheel barrow almost certainly killed me. I was broken off by the time that was done. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger as they say. My family heritage is Pennsylvania German. I'm not sure if that is a blessing or a curse as I always seem to take the manual labor approach to everything. A tight budget also makes the DIY decisions a bit easier as well. Since I finished that I've gotten to know a lot more people in town who own, among other things, tractors with front end loaders. A good thing to get to know your neighbors...

Next up was stripping the wire from the old structure and digging a 160' trench for the 2" pipe for my new power line for the shop. Unfortunately, half the distance is up a steep slope, and the access to the south side of the house is pretty tight from any direction not to mention I was on a tight budget too making renting a ditch witch not possible. So again-manual labor:


Out of the woods by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

The final approach to the house for the line goes right through a garden bed. That had to be meticulously taken apart and tended to (my wife has a green thumb. She was kind enough to let me tear this apart for the shop...):


The Grand Finale by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

This was the tool of choice as the hole got deeper. Shovel, pick and hoe all in one. I picked this up when I was about 12:


1968 Folding Shovel by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

And finally laying the pipe. Yes those are rocks and I only dug the minimum 18". I encountered too many to count (again, it's the granite state). One of which was the size of a small bus. I simply dug around that one and moved it out of the way by 4 inches. That took some time...


Running power to the Shop. by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Thanks for looking - more on the way.
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Old 08-08-2011, 12:54 PM   #2
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Default Re:Frame Shop - Second installment

With the line run and covered, I now switched gears to the build out of the space while I wait to purchase the materials and for my electrician friend to have a day to actually run the power out to the shop. I have gotten to know a very nice fellow up the road from us who owns his own timber frame business. He was kind enough to tip me off when he would have a lot of scrap SIP's (structurally insulated panels) on hand. I scored about 10 4'x10' SIP's not too long ago. Pretty much enough to insulate the entire shop. Have I mentioned it's good to have good friends? If not, I'm saying it now! Here's a shot starting to chop up the SIP's to be fitted into the stud walls.


Progress by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Safety First, cuts by Makita second:


Cuts by Makita by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

The barn was built with studs every 24", so with much head scratching and asking questions from those who knew more than I did, the best approach would be to cut the panels up and foam them in place. Perhaps there is a better solution, but that's the path I took.

Stripping wire:


Shop Update: 4.11.2011 by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

When you make progress after what seems like an eternity, it's time for a little celebration. I was pretty stoked when I finished insulating the North facing wall:


A manly wall of OSB / 44blog by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

All the while I've been searching classifieds, craigslist and talking to anyone and everyone about supplies. Mainly windows. My wife's uncle had the misfortune of having a lot of snow load damage his roof. The inspectors were weary of the large casement window's mechanisms on the south side of his home being damaged. The windows themselves were undamaged. At a family get together I inquired what would happen to these windows and he loved the idea of them having a second life and being recycled into the shop. A quick trip with a u-haul van and I had 6 30x70 windows. We even managed to poke through the dumpster to get enough of the casements to rebuild 2 of them so they worked. So this really became the icing on my cake and has opened up some really amazing possibilities. Just after picking them up:


2x3=6 by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

I took a week to myself in some down time from the design business to build out the south facing wall. From the inside:


Inside before ply install by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

From the outside with one window installed. Both ends open so it funnels air in. With the windows and doors open, there is a great amount of air that circulates through the shop. I'm pretty stoked on this:


Shop Progress 7.2.2011 by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Starting to install the ply. Hind site is 20/20, i should have put the ply/paper first then installed the windows. I was so excited about installing the windows I couldn't help myself. Not to mention that day was about 900 degree's.


Shop Progress - 7.3.2011 by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Paper and trim installed. Starting to put the board's back up:


Almost buttoned up by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Once all that was finished, the east facing wall was next on my agenda. The floor is terribly uneven, cracked and heaved. The builders really didn't do a good job of creating the structure. I often joke to myself it would be easier to take the whole thing apart, pour a slab, and rebuild the structure. But you gotta work with what you've been handed sometimes, making spirit and the challenge of problem solving that much sweeter. Here's what I'm dealing with. The front used to have two large openings with what i believe used to have two sliding doors. At some point that was taken apart (and deposited across the lane...) and a flimsy stud wall put up in it's place. Not to mention a huge set of 10' doors (also pretty shaky...). before and after taking that wall apart:


Time to chop by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Also luck would have it that all of my close friends are on vacation, traveling or just not in town when I've got time to work on this. So things don't get built exactly in the order they should I suppose. The other thing is attempting to build a stud wall on a heaved floor is for the birds. It was easier to build as I go. Shot from inside/outside as this wall begins to take shape:


Frames of a wooden kind. by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

The previous owners left a 2 ton truck jack behind. That little thing has come in hand more times that I can count to move a wall up by a 1/4 of an inch, support a structure when I'm tearing things apart, etc. I'll have to take a pic of it. I named it "Moe". The ring leader of this knucklehead "do-we-cheetum-and-how" operation...

A shot of the completed wall and with both windows installed. This corner gets full southern exposure and should provide some really nice passive solar heat in the winter:


Shop Update 7.12.2011 by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

More on its way soon...
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Frame Shop - 3rd Installment

Skipping ahead-I decided to make the large entry way a bit smaller. 8'x8' instead of about 10'x10'. It's a little more manageable and when I eventually have the floor poured, i will have a pad poured out front for when additional machinery is purchased. I can then simply roll it in.


Today's pound fest by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Keystone over the center - a nod to my Pennsylvania roots.

Here's a nice shot from inside the structure. I picked up that Bridgeport for song some time ago. She's been patiently waiting for her final resting place in the shop. Its nickname is "the Dutchman".


New View on Sunday by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

A small composite before / after shot of the shop:


Before - After by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

I decided just to use OSB to skin the walls. Partly because I personally just can't stand working with drywall, but mostly because it's quick to cut, good structurally and it's a shop space. I'll paint the inside a nice bright yellow I believe:


Mojo Repair Shop by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

The next phase (and the current one) was to build the internal wall to divide up the space. Naturally everyones knee jerk reaction is to go after the entire space, but upon reflection I wanted a cozy space. And the cost of insulating a 30 x 20 space as opposed to a 20 x 22 space seemed better to start with. Not to mention that 20 times 22 is 440 (a conveniently nice number). I don't intend to fill the space either: Bridgeport (check), Lathe, small drill press and an alignment table will be the biggest items. Some work benches, tool carts etc. will take up the rest of the space. Here's a shot of the completed stud wall (built the same as the rest of the barn every 24"):


STUDS by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Here's the finished wall with OSB. The stack of SIP's behind the Bridgeport is getting smaller as I finish up the insulation on the backside of this wall. I think it JUST might do the entire shop:


The wall of OSB by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

The bridgeport will find it's home in the far corner next to that large opening. Purposely put there so when the time is right to pour a floor, I can just raise it up and the short distance to the other side of the floor will be a snap. That's one thing that's been fun: planning the build out on a budget with future projects in mind but still achieving what you envision the space to be. I like to take the "what does this WANT to be" approach a lot. Let the space speak for itself and you just kind of guide it along.

Now it's time to take a break from the build out (the ceiling will be the last step as I have to shore up some rafters, etc.) and move onto the power source. My buddy called in the order and I picked this up this past thursday:


Power Supplies by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Pulling 200 ft of 10ga copper wire is going to be a treat. Luckily for this job, all of my friends come home from their travels just in time to help me out on this one. To be continued.

If anyone's wondering, here's a few pics of two of my personal builds:

In Process:


Pieces parts by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Build:


New Setup by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

In Process:


Seat Stays by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Weld Detail:


FORK - Weld Detail by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Build:


Fat Snake by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

Thanks for looking...
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:08 PM   #4
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Impressive project. I like your self reliant approach to things. Having dug many a fox hole with an entrenching tool I feel confidant in saying "you are the man."
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:18 PM   #5
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

the graphic design skills are obvious, nice
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:18 PM   #6
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Very nice shop! I love old buildings reworked!
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:33 PM   #7
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

That shop looks great and those welds are beautiful.
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:39 PM   #8
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Thanks for the kind words everyone. Part of this whole process is to stop spending all of my time behind a computer and transition into being on my feet in a shop. It was a complete shock to my system when I had to make that transition from my natural process of sketching, designing and working with my hands fabricating concepts and working out ideas in 3d to sitting using CAD and graphic software where shop time was limited or not available at all. It's definitely liberating to be approaching that balance again and on my own terms.

One graphic I recently did that's been personally inspiring:


Support the Local No. 44 by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:40 PM   #9
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Very impressed! You do good work sir! Make yourself at home! There's ton s of stuff on this board that i'm sure you're like.
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:44 PM   #10
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Impressive mill.

Nice shop.

Good work.

Nice graphic design skills.

NICE WELDS.

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Old 08-08-2011, 01:53 PM   #11
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bib Overalls View Post
Impressive project. I like your self reliant approach to things. Having dug many a fox hole with an entrenching tool I feel confidant in saying "you are the man."
2nd that

And you are truly a man after my own heart when you are chasing a dream entirely under "your terms".

If only that dream was even remotely achievable here in Northern Ireland, i would be chasing it so hard right now. In the mean time, im subscribing and i wholeheartedly wish you the very best of luck
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:59 PM   #12
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Again-thanks for the kind words to all. I found this forum looking up insulation methods actually - it's a great forum and I felt like I finally had a little something that I could contribute.

Once power is officially "on" it will be time to finish tooling up. The Bridgeport's going to come out of her long slumber. Late last fall, my timber framing friend was kind enough to let me use his in the meantime to finish up my most important piece of tooling: the frame jig. That was a blast to make. A shot below.


Even BIGGER - 44 Frame Jig by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr

More shots of that process here
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Old 08-08-2011, 03:36 PM   #13
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Truly inspiring DIY approach.
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Old 08-08-2011, 03:42 PM   #14
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

I must also say I like when a owner of a small company, apparently a one man company, can admit that he is on a tight budget. I'm there myself and sometimes it's quite annoying when it's expected that just because you run something yourself there must be loads of money in it. For me it's rather the other way, I could make much better having an ordinary 9-5 job as a civil servant but I prefer dealing with my business on a shoestring.
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Old 08-08-2011, 03:51 PM   #15
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Took me ages there to work out how the hell you got the bikes to remain upright

Nice
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Old 08-08-2011, 04:27 PM   #16
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Very impressive. And nice part of the country to set up shop.
Is that frame jig made with 80/20 ?

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Old 08-08-2011, 04:44 PM   #17
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Quote:
Originally Posted by T100C View Post
Is that frame jig made with 80/20 ?
Yes, parts of it are indeed made from 80/20. The rest of the parts I machined to my specifications from solid stock. I find it very stable for tig welding / tacking jigs. It's very versatile. I specifically used the heavier 40-4040, 40-8016 and 40-8080 metric t-slot profiles. I watched a few ebay stores till the right sized scrap/cutoffs appeared for sale. There are a few more tools I need to make and I'll be incorporating this into them. I used it for my fork jig's main beam as well:


IT LIVES. by BLACK CAP Studio, on Flickr
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Old 08-08-2011, 04:51 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by magnusk750 View Post
For me it's rather the other way, I could make much better having an ordinary 9-5 job as a civil servant but I prefer dealing with my business on a shoestring.
Agreed! Before all of this I was a shoe designer for a number of years. Commuting back and forth. Working day and night only to have projects cut, shelved or scrapped all together began to wear thin. Makes you think "What am I doing?" That's when I had that realization, quit and set to work starting my own business on my own terms. Granted it's a lot of work and money can be tight at times with the ebb and flow of a business. But the satisfaction of doing things on your own terms and working with clients you were meant to work with is worth the headaches that come along with a business. Not to mention I get to set the volume on the player...
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Old 08-08-2011, 06:21 PM   #19
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Great work on the shop and bikes. I checked out your website and blog. I always wondered how many guys on this journal frequent mtbr.com.
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Old 08-08-2011, 06:38 PM   #20
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Default Re: 44 Bikes Frame Shop

Hey FortyFour,

Really nice shop in a beautiful setting.
Ill be out your way in a couple weeks

Have got a similar goal of getting out of my current work and making a go on my own. Congratulations on living the dream!
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